Maintaining Homeostasis

Conditions in the body need to be just right for optimal function. For example, temperature, blood sugar, and immune system activity must all be regulated for optimal function. Signaling systems made up of transmitters, receptors, and enzymes control these responses. The endocannabinoid system is involved in balancing brain cell firing (pictured above) and inflammation reactions.


Sites and functions of the endocannabinoid system

The endocannabinoid system has long been thought to function only within the nervous system. However, new research has shown that endocannabinoid signaling affects the activity of many organ systems.

In the nervous system, it regulates neuron firing. Binding of CB1 in the brain has been linked to euhporic states and altered cognitive processing. CB1 and CB2 activation in peripheral nerves affects pain signaling.

Across the body’s tissues, the endocannabinoid system controls inflammatory responses. When an infection is detected, immune cells become more active and gather at the site of infection. If overstimulated, this response may become too aggressive and cause damage to healthy cells. CB2 stimulation has been shown to control B-cell maturation and reduce pro-inflammatory signaling. Interestingly, the system responds to injury and inflammation by creating more receptors in affected tissues.

Other sites and functions associated with these receptors are shown below.

Cannabinoid receptor locations and activity:

endocannabinoid system body health

Skeptics often wonder how cannabinoids can present such a diverse array of effects on different people. Research has uncovered a number of conditional interactions between CB1 and other receptors which may explain (and complicate) our understanding of the endocannabinoid system functions. These protens link with CB1 on the cell membrane, changing the behavior of each receptor.

CB1 Linkages

  • CB1 +  μOR [opoid receptor] — When both activated has been shown to reduce pain blocking effects
  • CB1 + δOR [opoid receptor] :: increased linkage during chronic pain, may improve mood
  • CB1 + HT2A [serotonin receptor] :: CB1 activation may co-activate HT2A, may be cause of memory loss in cannabis users 
  • CB1+ D2 [dopamine receptor] :: both activated increases linkage frequency, effects unknown
  • CB1 + A2A [adenosine receptor] :: caffeine receptor, co-activation reduces signaling, effects unknown

Implications & Opportunities for therapy

 The effects of CB1 interacting with other signaling pathways are still being explored. It also supports how supplemental use of CB1 binding compounds (like THC) may be used an alternative route to address chronic pain.

As understanding of the endocannabinoid system increases, the potential of plant extracted cannabinoids is being realized. Research and clinical trials are catching up to anecdotal evidence supporitng the benefits of cannabis. However, other naturally occuring molecules can also help achieve internal balance.

Plants and their cannabinoids

  • CANNABIS: THC, CBD, CBN, CBC, CBL, CBV, THCV, CBDV, CBCV, CBGV, CBGM, CBE, CBT. (Clinical trials ongoing relate to pain, MS, and epilepsy)
  • ECHINACEA: alkylamides that interact with CB2 for immune support
  • HELICHRYSUM: some strains contain compounds like CBG
  • PEPPERCORNS: contains the terpene beta-caryophyllene which will selectively bind CB2
phytocannabinoids cannabis arnica rosemary